Are we heading for a dark age…

… or will everything turn out fine for humanity?


Tijn Touber | June 2005 issue

How does our near future look? An overpopulated world plagued by scarcity, poverty, and pollution? Or a modern, high-tech society that has found solutions to the wishes and desires of all world citizens?

American writer James Howard Kunstler , writing in Rolling Stone (March 2005), is decidedly pessimistic. He spends pages explaining how we are on the way to a dark age, literally and figuratively, now that the oil and natural gas supply are quickly being depleted. He believes alternative energy sources—like wind, sun, biomass and hydrogen—are nowhere near being able to make up for the shortfall. Kunstler advises that we all prepare for “an historic period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship.” The only way to turn the tide is to “downscale”, in other words consume less, commute and travel less, produce less and so on. But on the bright side, he believes these changes might ultimately result in a society more satisfying for the average person.

“If there is any positive side to stark changes coming our way,” he writes, “it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really matters and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments.”

Fellow American writer Michael Lind, a truly maverick political thinker whose ideas sometimes line up with either the left or right, disagrees. In the British publication Prospect (July 2004) he claims that all the inhabitants of the world—even if there end up being nine billion of us—can live a comfortable life. Lind’s ideas are intriguing, even if he too easily passes over significant political and social obstacles that stand in the way of this vision for the future. He believes new technologies will be able to meet all the challenges, because they will continue to get cheaper and increasing numbers of people can have access to them. This technological advancement could mean more pollution and more waste, but not—Lind says—if we imitate the natural recycling mechanisms at work in nature.

While global warming is a technology-driven problem, Lind argues, technology is also where the solutions to the problem can be found: petroleum, gas and coal should be burned at specific locations (for the production of hydrogen), so emissions can be captured. Where Kunstler tells Rolling Stone he sees a future in which even cars will disappear in favour of more sustainable means of transportation, Lind’s future includes private flying machines. NASA is said to be working on air taxis.

In addition, Lind believes every inhabitant of the earth will be able to live comfortably, surrounded by greenery, if land is redistributed. He does the math and concludes that there is more than enough space if we’re prepared to reclaim the disproportionately large plots of land that are currently wasted on agriculture. “A pasture and a cow are an extremely inefficient method of converting earth, water and sunlight into a steak,” he writes. His solution: cloning tissue so that instead of keeping animals we “grow” our steaks. Extreme? Perhaps, but ultimately more animal-friendly—and given the land saved, more people friendly—than the way we currently meet our demand for meat.

Incidentally, those wishing to catch a glimpse of the future can look to China, says Wired magazine. Given the country’s fast economic growth, Wired (April 2005) posed the question: what will the 1.3 billion people be driving in future? The Chinese government’s answer? Cars with a clean combustion engine. The Aspire is an example of a hydrogen car developed in China that comes with GPS (Global Positioning System) and a bicycle (!) on board. The cars are compact and light, not meant to drive fast. The price—currently around $12,000 U.S. (9000 euros)—can only fall, making the car affordable to increasing numbers of Chinese.

By the way, those among us who assume China’s population, and that of the world as a whole, will only continue to grow, should take a look at Newsweek (27 September 2004). It appears that exactly the opposite may happen. When the global population reaches nine billion in 2050, it will start to nosedive. We are already seeing fewer and fewer children born around the world. Since 1972, the average number of children per woman has declined from 6.0 to 2.9. In Europe that figure stands at 1.4; fewer than are needed to maintain the population. In France and Ireland the average woman bears 1.8 children, while in Italy and Spain it is only 1.2. This is more like a population implosion.

Who was it that once said: everything changes—and it always will?

Solution News Source

Are we heading for a dark age…

… or will everything turn out fine for humanity?


Tijn Touber | June 2005 issue

How does our near future look? An overpopulated world plagued by scarcity, poverty, and pollution? Or a modern, high-tech society that has found solutions to the wishes and desires of all world citizens?

American writer James Howard Kunstler , writing in Rolling Stone (March 2005), is decidedly pessimistic. He spends pages explaining how we are on the way to a dark age, literally and figuratively, now that the oil and natural gas supply are quickly being depleted. He believes alternative energy sources—like wind, sun, biomass and hydrogen—are nowhere near being able to make up for the shortfall. Kunstler advises that we all prepare for “an historic period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship.” The only way to turn the tide is to “downscale”, in other words consume less, commute and travel less, produce less and so on. But on the bright side, he believes these changes might ultimately result in a society more satisfying for the average person.

“If there is any positive side to stark changes coming our way,” he writes, “it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really matters and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments.”

Fellow American writer Michael Lind, a truly maverick political thinker whose ideas sometimes line up with either the left or right, disagrees. In the British publication Prospect (July 2004) he claims that all the inhabitants of the world—even if there end up being nine billion of us—can live a comfortable life. Lind’s ideas are intriguing, even if he too easily passes over significant political and social obstacles that stand in the way of this vision for the future. He believes new technologies will be able to meet all the challenges, because they will continue to get cheaper and increasing numbers of people can have access to them. This technological advancement could mean more pollution and more waste, but not—Lind says—if we imitate the natural recycling mechanisms at work in nature.

While global warming is a technology-driven problem, Lind argues, technology is also where the solutions to the problem can be found: petroleum, gas and coal should be burned at specific locations (for the production of hydrogen), so emissions can be captured. Where Kunstler tells Rolling Stone he sees a future in which even cars will disappear in favour of more sustainable means of transportation, Lind’s future includes private flying machines. NASA is said to be working on air taxis.

In addition, Lind believes every inhabitant of the earth will be able to live comfortably, surrounded by greenery, if land is redistributed. He does the math and concludes that there is more than enough space if we’re prepared to reclaim the disproportionately large plots of land that are currently wasted on agriculture. “A pasture and a cow are an extremely inefficient method of converting earth, water and sunlight into a steak,” he writes. His solution: cloning tissue so that instead of keeping animals we “grow” our steaks. Extreme? Perhaps, but ultimately more animal-friendly—and given the land saved, more people friendly—than the way we currently meet our demand for meat.

Incidentally, those wishing to catch a glimpse of the future can look to China, says Wired magazine. Given the country’s fast economic growth, Wired (April 2005) posed the question: what will the 1.3 billion people be driving in future? The Chinese government’s answer? Cars with a clean combustion engine. The Aspire is an example of a hydrogen car developed in China that comes with GPS (Global Positioning System) and a bicycle (!) on board. The cars are compact and light, not meant to drive fast. The price—currently around $12,000 U.S. (9000 euros)—can only fall, making the car affordable to increasing numbers of Chinese.

By the way, those among us who assume China’s population, and that of the world as a whole, will only continue to grow, should take a look at Newsweek (27 September 2004). It appears that exactly the opposite may happen. When the global population reaches nine billion in 2050, it will start to nosedive. We are already seeing fewer and fewer children born around the world. Since 1972, the average number of children per woman has declined from 6.0 to 2.9. In Europe that figure stands at 1.4; fewer than are needed to maintain the population. In France and Ireland the average woman bears 1.8 children, while in Italy and Spain it is only 1.2. This is more like a population implosion.

Who was it that once said: everything changes—and it always will?

Solution News Source

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